August 14, 1841

Saturday, 14th. Left the river on account of the hills which obstructed our way on it; found an abundance of choke cherries, many of which were ripe. Road uncommonly broken, did not reach the river, distance about 14 miles.

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) are a small dark red fruit, native across most of North America and related to cherries and plums. They are chockful of antioxidants. They have a slightly astringent taste, but are sweet and delicious when fully ripe (so I am told — I’ve never eaten them).

Here is a website about preparedness and edible wild foods where you can learn more about how to forage for chokecherries and use them.

For Native Americans, chokecherries were an important part of their diet and a key ingredient in pemmican. For the emigrants, chokecherries were a welcome addition to their otherwise monotonous fare. At this point in their journey, in mid-August, is when chokecherries ripen and are ready to pick.

Chokecherries, from

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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